Tag Archives: #NoBullshitMotherhood

# 14 – Infertility & Self Loathing

When Matt and I were in Sydney for our honeymoon in 2010, I told him that I wanted to go back to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary with our future 3 year old.

After a year of acupuncture and a paleo diet, I got pregnant in 2012.

I had a miscarriage.

I decided to deal with the loss by focusing on the positive. I was happy that I got pregnant when it looked like it would never happen. I was hopeful because my body knew how to make a baby.

After seven months of trying and no rainbow baby (a baby born after a miscarriage), we consulted with a fertility doctor.

2014 was the year that IVFs 1-3 did not take.

The 4th IVF in 2015 was somewhat successful because I got pregnant but at five weeks, I had another  miscarriage.

To deal with this one, I started planning where to go for our 2nd honeymoon/5 year wedding anniversary/vacation.  I broke down thinking of the three year old we did not have. I went in and out of my boss’ office every time the tears spilled, relieved by the lack of people at work that day.

I needed to do something to feel like I was helping the situation. I reached out to all my religious friends and had them ask their pastors/priests about adoption, in case they knew of anyone who wanted to give up a child.

I was desperate.

This was something so out of my control that not even two top fertility doctors (one in New York and one in Los Angeles) could  help me because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong either.

I needed an answer, a reason, even if it wasn’t a good one,  something to help me move on.

I threw myself into my job and writing. I took two workshops at once, my free time was to be consumed with reading and writing.

I did not want to cry or dwell on the recent miscarriage.

What would the boy or boys have looked like?

Why did this keep happening to me?

What was wrong with me?

I decided that I would try one more round and that would be the last time I would put my body and heart  through the rigors of IVF. I made it my goal to work on being happy no matter what the outcome of the fifth and final IVF.

I would not be bitter if it didn’t work.

I would be grateful for having the resources to try.

In the end, I wanted no room for regrets.

I was already on my journey to gratitude and contentment when Matt got a new job that interfered with my plans for a second honeymoon on our fifth wedding anniversary.

I didn’t mope or complain. I was not going to have a depressing, miserable summer. I was getting better at coming up with plan E when A-D didn’t work.

I went on vacation with my girlfriends.

I had nothing to lose by trying to be happy.

In retrospect, it sounds like a piece of cake to switch gears and decide to be happy. It was not an easy task. This being a shitty first draft, I see where I need to fill in the details of the pain I was in to properly illustrate it.

Below is an excerpt from my journal.

Anger Stage of Grief: This is what self loathing looks like a week after  miscarriage number two from IVF number four.

April 2015 – I am angry; at myself for wanting this so fucking badly, at my body for not fucking doing this for me, at the pregnant bitch showing me her fucking ultrasound picture. I don’t give a fuck, keep your enthusiasm to yourself you stupid hoe bag. To the other one, nosey fuck, it’s none of your fucking business when my IVF is, I fucking hate you. Most of all, I really do hate myself right now. My fucking sister is telling me how brave I fucking am, how awesome my fucking body is for trying and trying.  No, I’m not brave, I’m a fucking idiot who doesn’t fucking know when to quit. My body is not fucking amazing, all I’ve gotten is two fucking miscarriages. I am obese with a bmi of 30 from  the anxiety, eating my feelings and the fertility drugs. I don’t feel amazing or maybe I do.  You know what I think of the word amazing? It’s overused and most people don’t know what it means. They glorify things that are not amazing, like parents who call their toddlers amazing for hitting milestones they should have hit months ago. In that case, yes, I am absolutely amazing, an amazing fucking loser.

After I wrote this entry, I screamed into a pillow and cried for about three hours. I did not let Matt or anyone see me like this. My heart, body and soul could not take it anymore. The physical and mental pain was exhausting and would probably kill me if I didn’t do something.

My daughter is now ten months old, the fifth IVF worked. I don’t know if it was the change in mindset or the odds finally being on my side. I am beyond blessed to have her. I do not take her or motherhood for granted.

I would like to think that if things hadn’t gone the way they did, I would have found a way to be content. Happiness is a tall order. Even when you get everything you want, there are too many horrors in the world for me to be truly happy.

 

 

# 9 – Fibroids & MRI

It didn’t occur to me to freak out the day before when my legs were in stirrups in Dr. V’s Park Avenue office.   He and Matt were discussing a New York Times article while my vagina was in front of his face.  This was probably the closest I’d come to a threesome, I thought as Dr. V jammed the wand in and out trying to get a better look at the fibroids outside my uterus. He looked concerned. “It doesn’t have the round shape of normal fibroids.” He said.

“Oh my God, is it cancer?”  I asked, as I squirmed almost pushing the wand out.

“No, no, it’s benign it just looks different, you need to have an MRI tomorrow so I can have the results before the surgery. They may need to come out.”

We flew all the way from Los Angeles to have a laparoscopy to see if I had endometriosis, I wasn’t expecting fibroids or an MRI.

I didn’t freak out about the MRI then, I’ve had plenty of them due to my low back issues and even a brain scan when I fainted a few years before and hit my head on the marble floor due to the stress of being in a shitty marriage with my first husband and my mother’s then recent cancer diagnosis.

I was a veteran of MRIs so I thought nothing of having one the day before the surgery until of course, I got there and saw that it was a closed MRI. What kind of uncivilized hospital was this?  I started to panic when I saw the thin white tube I was going into. Maybe it would be OK, it was a pelvic scan, as long as my neck was out of the machine I’d be OK but this machine may as well have been from the middle ages or the 1980s. The technician kept sliding me in and when my chest was in the machine I started to freak out.

“OK when does it stop, it’s a pelvic exam, you don’t need to push me in all the way.”

“Yes I do” he said.

“Why’? I asked.

“Ma’am it’s just the way it is, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to”. “Yes she does” Matt said with a force I’ve never heard in his speech before. “Lucy, you have to do this , Dr. Vidali needs to know what these fibroids are doing, you have to do this, for us.” Matt has never begged me for anything the way he did at that moment.

“Ok, Ok” I took a deep breath.

“Go ahead” I said to the technician.

When he wheeled me all the way in, my eyes and my forehead were the only things out of the machine.

“I can’t do this” I said.

He pulled me out five times and then he lost his temper.

“Ma’am, I have three MRIs scheduled in the next two hours”

“Can you give me a xanax or something?” I asked.

“No, you should have thought of that yesterday and asked your doctor for a prescription.”

“Can my husband stay with me?” I could hear the man’s impatience giving me the side eye.

“Fine” he sighed, his annoyance stunk up the room.

“Just so you know, once we start, if you make me stop, you will be billed for the whole thing. Do you understand?”

I nodded like a scolded school girl. I was going to go through with this MRI, for me, for Matt and for the stupid baby we want to have.

“Keep your arms on your side or over your chest, and don’t move” I barely fit in the machine and all I could think of was my mother’s funeral, her white casket, her white dress, her laying still with her arms over her chest.

In I went as Matt stood over me, I felt his breath and told him he was too close. I focused on his Sinatra blue eyes as his tender hands caressed my hair. Tears of terror, tears of mourning and tears of gratitude flowed freely as I tried to calm my breath. The noise cancelling ear plugs were not working. Matt’s sweet voice whispered words of encouragement as the loud beeps, clanks and bangs drowned him out. I read his lips “I Love You” “You’re doing great” “THANK YOU” it was a mantra he repeated over and over as my tears cascaded down my temple. I was glad he was there because without his support I was ready to give up and forget about wanting a baby and buy a beach house in Ventura or a cabin in Big Bear.

# 4 – El Reguero

I’ve been trying to smudge my house since my daughter was born. I am a firm believer that your space needs to be immaculate before undertaking the ritual of space clearing. I did not have time to do a thorough house cleaning while I was on maternity leave. Contrary to what some people believe, maternity leave is not a vacation, you don’t have much free time because babies are a lot of work.

My husband is a chemist so the house was always laboratory spotless but now that we have a baby the house is for the most part, a mess – clutter everywhere; a baby swing, a little gym, a jumperoo, a high chair, a bassinet that functions more as a hamper/toy chest because my daughter sleeps on the bed with us, all in the middle of the living room.

The house is not up to our pre-baby clean standards. Since being back at work, neither of us has the time to mop the floors on a weekly basis. The priorities are; staying on top of laundry, a clean kitchen, a clean bathroom and changing the sheets and towels twice a week.

Now, there’s the stack of mail on top of the dining room table that needs to be sorted into piles; junk mail, important mail; to be filed; to be paid. Once the bills get paid, they move to the’ to be filed’ or ‘to be shredded’ pile. I have a load of documents that needs to be shred. If you’ve had the misfortune of credit card fraud or identity theft, you too will have a mountain of paper in need of shredding because throwing out even one envelope with your name on it fills you with anxiety.

Every room in the house can use a few hours of deep organization.  This is not something solvable with a cleaning lady. What I need is time to purge. To give away stuff, have a garage sale.  The house needs the full Marie Kondo.

When my friend Teri moved to Chicago she gave us her new sectional sofa. Matt has always wanted a sectional, I think they take up too much space. This one is three big pieces that closes off the living room and blocks off the nonfunctional fireplace that I decorated with whimsical pieces; mermaids, angels, Dominican Jesus.

Since I was a teenager, my adult goal was to live in the Pottery Barn catalogue.  When the sectional moved in, my PB sofa was temporarily moved to the garage. Matt wanted the sectional in the living room instead of the back room that is supposed to be the family room.  After four years in the house, the family room only gets used as a gateway to the back yard.

This need for an immaculate house is not about keeping up with the Joneses or para que la gente no diga. We rarely have people over. We live in Long Beach, a good 20-40 miles away from most of our friends in Los Angeles and my sister in the San Fernando Valley. Other than the obligatory Noche Buena party we don’t have many guests over.

My clean and clutter free house is for me to enjoy. It has to do with me being a control freak and also being one of four kids who never had her own room. A clean house that when my filmmaker friends come over and ask “can I shoot here?” makes me feel good. As a filmmaker, I know what a crew does to a house while they are shooting, my answer is always no.

The house used to be under my control because I had time to dedicate to it. I work forty five hours a week and spend about two hours a day commuting. Now, when I get home, my time is for my daughter.

I would love some flexibility at work. Like two days where I work four or five hours instead of nine. I’d be happy with a half day once a week or even every other week.

It is my controlling nature that makes me great at my day job. I’m an Executive Assistant to Masters of the Universe. I get paid very well to keep them organized and on schedule, it’s not something that can be done part time or half assed. I love my job, I love being in control but I would also love a little time to keep myself organized and on schedule.

***

The clutter is seeping into my relationship with my sister. I should be better about getting together, by the time the weekend rolls around the last thing I want to do is drive thirty plus miles to visit her. We made a date to meet at LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art. We were going to celebrate Matt’s and Ayden’s birthdays. Ayden, our Goddaughter was turning two. I stood my sister and her kids up! What kind of person stands up their two and four year old nieces! The girls were looking forward to seeing Hudson and to give Matt a present they had made for him. I slept right through the date, did not wake up until 11:00am and completely forgot to meet them.  I was so ashamed and disgusted with myself, I spent the week beating myself up about it.

I have to make some changes.

I will start with writing. As of now, I can dedicate my lunch time to putting together these weekly essays. I want to find two hours to work on my memoir on weekends because Matt is there to help.  There’s always something to do at home. A few weekends ago, I organized my daughter’s clothes that no longer fit her; I gave a lot away and stored what I want to keep for her. I sorted the clothes into two vacuum sealed bags; from new born to three months and from three months to six months. There went six hours of writing but now, I don’t have a giant bin full of baby clothes in the family room.

I can’t blame the not writing totally on the messy house. I have a flash drive with all the writing I’ve done in the last three years. It was not a functional system.  The work was categorized by workshop date so I had about twenty folders with four to eight pieces of writing.

I spent two hours today reorganizing my work. I created four folders in a new flash drive; Young Adult Memoir, Fertility/Trying to get Pregnant, Current Memoir, and Flash Pieces. I labeled each story by name and added what chapter I can find it in my memoir in progress. I also backed everything up into the cloud. The new system will make it easier to finish the second draft.

***

The essays on this blog are shitty first drafts at best. This is week four. I will continue to make time for this writing challenge of  #52Essays2017. Now that I’m back at work I am not able to take the weekly writing workshops so I need to stay accountable and generate work. I used to think that I didn’t have enough words in me to dedicate to weekly writing and to my memoir. Now that I don’t have time, I realize I have so much to say, so much I want to share. Little by little I will get there.

My daughter has already outgrown the swing and her baby gym. Those are now in the family room waiting to be stored in the garage in case one of the three frozen embryos turns into baby number two. Now, in the middle of the living room there’s a giant mat made of interlocking foam blocks with the letters of the alphabet in each block.  There is a baby fence around the mat so Hudson has room to crawl without hurting herself. At least Matt mopped the floor before he laid down the foam. I’m not going to be hard on myself about the baby stuff all over the house. I wanted this baby more than I’ve wanted anything in my whole life. I need to get used to the extra stuff that comes with that. I’m giving myself another two weeks, regardless of the state of the house, I will open up my windows, burn some sage and palo santo and invite new energy in and kick the old energy out.

# 2 – Longing for Mami

The cobalt-blue blanket with the red trimming and a thousand little fuzz balls that Mami made for my nephew, the one I stole from his closet because I wanted to feel close to her when I was home in California and she was dying in New Jersey, the one I gave my sister when I was declutering and then took back after Mami died, shelters me and my baby when we lay in bed listening to Stevie. I hum My Cherie Amour and Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday before her afternoon naps.  We listen to the songs on my Spotify playlist before bed time.

The chenille fabric is no longer soft,  it thins in the middle as if it has been shaved. The small hole in the corner seam of the red trim has gotten bigger. It still smells like Mami, and the house in Jersey that is no longer ours; It’s Fabuloso and sofrito and Tide and albondiga con moro de habichuela negra.   It’s Ivory soap and Lancôme moisturizer and Elizabeth Arden youth restoring ceramide capsules. Skeptics would say it’s all in my mind, but my nose knows.

I lay on my side so I can watch Hudson thrash and toss before she settles down, her head laying on the crook my arm. Sometimes she falls asleep on top of me, other times her head rests on my shoulder. My upper body is knotted. I should see my chiropractor more often but I don’t have time. I want to spend as much of my waking hours and all of my sleeping time holding my baby.

Her eyes, Sinatra blue like her father’s, in the dark with only the hallway light coming in from under the door, look brown like Mami’s. Most nights I feel her gaze through my daughter’s eyes.

By the time Stevie sings the last notes of Yester Me, Hudson’s eyes flutter shut for the night. I bury my nose in her head trying to smell the last of the delicious baby smell that is slowly evaporating.  I do the same with the blanket and pray that the smell never leaves.

***

I hid behind big, dark, Jackie O type sunglasses at Mami’s funeral. My eyes, no matter how hard I squeezed or how many memories I replayed, refused to cry.  The days after she died was the first time I was able to sleep soundly without sleep aids. My eyes looked like an airbrushed advertisement for expensive eye cream.

What was wrong with me? Who doesn’t cry at their mother’s funeral? Why did I always have to be the weird one?

Not even the memory of the sunglasses purchase made me cry. Me and Mami, five years earlier at the Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet at the Bergen Mall, a distraction before one of her chemo treatments. I was broke and going through a nasty divorce from an unemployed, wannabe musician who was threatening to sue me for alimony. The designer sunglasses cost $95, money I did not have because all of my money went to maintain the Brentwood lifestyle my then husband sucked us into. I could barely afford the trip from Los Angeles to New Jersey, I did not have $95 in my bank account but Mami insisted. She put them on me like she used to with my prescription glasses when I was a little girl. She fixed my messy hair, turned me towards the mirror and smiled.

“Te vez come una millonaria.” She said, as I marveled at the ability of these sunglasses to make me look like a million bucks. I loved the power to hide my reality behind them. I insisted that I couldn’t afford them.  She paid for them even though she was in no position to spend the money. Her health insurance had denied the claim for one of her PET scans and now owed the hospital about fifteen thousand dollars.

“Pagame cuando salgas de ese albatross” she said. I wished I had given Mami back the money after I got rid of the albatross but she never asked me for it and up until her funeral, I had forgotten.

I sat in the family pew, our section was in the front, against the wall, between the casket and the rows of guests. My husband held my hand. I looked the part of the grieving daughter as long as I did not take off the sunglasses.

I was not ready or willing to let go. I was busy not dealing, being in denial was easy. I continued my life in California pretending Mami was still alive in New Jersey.   I did not delete her from my phone. Each time I called my husband or one of my siblings I would see her picture icon along with the rest of the family members on the  favorite contact section. I did not erase her voice mails and would listen to them when I wanted to hear her voice. My delusion went so far that I would forget she was dead and call her cellphone a few times a week only to be shocked to reality when my nephew’s voice or voice mail answered because he took over her number.

***

I started IVF treatments five months after the funeral, I needed to be in a state of Zen and happiness but even if I blocked my mother’s death out of my mind, my body knew.

I finally got pregnant one year and four months after she died thanks to IVF number four.  Unfortunately, it resulted in a miscarriage so bloody it made the elevator doors in the film version of The Shining look tame by comparison.

Two months after the miscarriage I went on vacation with my friend Teri. Actually, I invited myself on the trip she was planning with her sister and a family friend.  I was desperate to escape. Matt had recently switched jobs, taking time off was not something he wanted to do.  I treated myself to a first class ticket. After years of putting travel on hold because “What if Mami dies while I’m in the middle of nowhere” or “What if I get pregnant and don’t want to travel”, I was ready for a good time.

Teri’s sister took care of the planning, all I had to do was get there.  There, was casita with a private swimming pool and a butler at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen.  I arrived the day after Teri and her sister, sunglasses in tow looking like a millonaria.

One night after dinner, relaxing in our private pool, Eugenia, Teri, their friend Susana and I were sipping wine, enjoying our privilege.

“You know, if this next round of IVF doesn’t work, I’m done. If I don’t get pregnant, Matt and I will be OK. We will travel, maybe buy a beach house in the Dominican Republic.” I said, resigning myself to our possible fate as a childless couple. I was no longer going to let infertility stop me from enjoying life.

“How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?” Teri asked.

The aha moment didn’t have time to register because within seconds of her saying that, we heard a swishing, chattering sound that turned out to be a bat. It flew into our space making us scream like horror movie characters about to meet the boogeyman. Teri and I ducked into the pool while Susana accidentally swatted the bat making it squeal and flap its wings above us longer than it probably intended to.

Two days later, I flew back home by myself. I was listening to music, my playlist on shuffle.

Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday blasted through my headphones. The first time in years I had heard the song.

What happened to the world we knew

When we would dream and scheme

And while the time away

Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday

“How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?” echoed over the lyrics.

Teri felt like an oracle delivering a message in the form of a question.

 Where did you go that yesterglow

When we could feel

The wheel of life turn our way

Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday

 “How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?”

It was somewhere around the second verse of the song that images of me and Mami flashed like they do in the movies when a character is about to die.  In a span of a few seconds, every memory played in fast motion. I started sobbing and gasping for air. I tried to be quiet, to control it. The flight attendant rushed over to me, asked if I was all right. All I could do was nod and breathe.

The images slowed down; Me as an infant on top of Mami’s stomach as she did sit ups. Me as a toddler sticking my index finger in the corner of her eye trying to fish out the eyeliner gunk. Me stretching Mami’s ear lobes trying to pull out her hoop earings. My childhood, adolescense and adult life with my mother played nostalgic like an old song.

I was grateful that the cabin was not crowded and the few passengers on board all had their noise cancelling headphones on. The flight attendant kept coming back to check up on me and bring me water during my four hour crying binge.

***

The fifth and final IVF was scheduled for September 18th, 2016.  I spent last summer grieving, hiking, cooking, reading, writing, spending time with my husband and my nieces Onabella and Ayden who were three and one, I needed all the baby energy I could get. I got massages regularly, saw my chiropractor and acupuncturist weekly, tried to meditate and lastly, I booked four reiki sessions with a healer/poet/activist who taught me about the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono.

I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You

Love

Atonement

Mercy

Gratitude

From Wikipedia

“Ho’oponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Traditionally hoʻoponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaʻau among family members of a person who is physically ill. Modern versions are performed within the family by a family elder, or by the individual alone”.

I used the prayer to make amends with my mother.

Mami, I love you so much

I’m sorry I was not a better daughter

I’m sorry I never paid you back for the sunglasses

Please forgive me for all the nights you spent desvelada, waiting for me to come home

Please forgive me for all the times I made you worry when I was married to the albatross

Thank You for always being there,  siempre resolviendome whatever problemas I asked for your help with

Thank You for all the sacrificios you made for me

When I got a positive pregnancy test four days after the embryos were transferred, I knew I would have my THB (Take Home Baby). I entered the date of the transfer in a Due Date App. According to this app and later confirmed by my Obstetrician, my baby was due on Mami’s birthday. I know like I know that two plus two is four that my daughter is a gift from my mother.

I am still grieving, I think I will always grieve. I have accepted that she is dead, I am no longer in denial about that. Giving birth has added a new dimension to the longing I have for my mother. So many times I wish I could pick up the phone and call her.

Hudson and I lay in bed, covered in the blanket, we listen to Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Jose Luis Peralta. Every night  I hope to dream with her, every once in a while I do.

# 1 – My Crime as a New Mother

Christine and Lisa were shocked at how good I looked. I’m not sure what they were expecting when they came to meet my daughter.

“You’re so relaxed!” Christine said.

“It’s like you just walked out of the spa. Your skin looks fabulous, did you get a facial?” asked Lisa.

At two months old, my daughter was sleeping through the night and napped frequently during the day. I couldn’t do much because she only napped draped over me; head resting on one side of my chest, one hand over my heart, feet dangling below my bellybutton. The minute I put her down in the crib, bassinette or bed, she would wake up.  I propped myself up on pillows in the middle of the new king size bed and learned to nap when she napped.  I kept one hand lightly on her back feeling the up and down motion of her diaphragm contracting and expanding. I was not going to drop her or smother her. My sleep was light at best. I could see the fingers wagging and the tsk-tsking from my pediatrician and people who “knew better” if I let this out.

Christine and Lisa don’t have kids, they wouldn’t know to judge me for sleeping with my baby but some mothers would. I had already gotten eye rolls and pursed lips when I told a few that Hudson was sleeping through the night.

The secret to my radiant glow was not due to long hours of daytime napping and a full night’s sleep. My crime as a new mother was far worse than that.

I was not breastfeeding and I was OK with that.

I had a C-section. I always follow that with “because I had fibroids removed three months before I got pregnant. There was a ninety percent chance my uterus would rupture during labor if I delivered vaginally.” Which is usually met with the look you give people in mourning when you don’t know what to say to them. If I omit the reason for my C-section I get that head tilt or eye brow cock that I now know means I’m being judged and labeled a bad mother.

I hold the C-section somewhat accountable for my not being able to breastfeed. I gave birth at 8:34am but by the time I was stitched up and in the recovery room an hour had passed. I had Matt pull down my hospital gown and bring the baby to my breast.  She didn’t latch, she didn’t seem to know what to do. Maybe too much time had passed before we did skin to skin or placed her on my breast.

By the time I got to my room, my breasts were engorged and in pain but nothing would come out. The nurse showed Matt how to massage them to try to get the colostrum out. Matt’s strong hands got tired after twenty minutes of kneading.

The lactation consultant came in to check on my progress, she adjusted Matt’s hands as he massaged while my areolas were being suctioned by a mechanical contraption.

The hospital was baby friendly meaning that they subscribe to the mantra of “breast is best” but what if I couldn’t feed my baby? Were they going to let her starve?

I’ve never had so many hands on my breasts. My sister Ona, who breastfed her three year old and one year old in tandem insisted on helping. The nurse, lactation consultant, my husband and now my sister all took turns. Ona grabbed, pulled and stretched my breasts trying to extract milk. She tweaked and twisted my nipple so hard I shrieked, waking Matt and the baby, and making two nurses rush in to my room to see if I was OK.

In my posh hospital room in Santa Monica, on the other side of the map from my old neighborhood in Washington Heights, I reached my boiling point and went uptown on everybody.

“You all need to get the fuck out of my face right now and leave my motherfucking tits alone.” I screamed as Matt ushered everyone out, except for the baby.

“She can go a long time without eating, don’t worry. Your milk will come in soon honey.” The nurse tried to reassure me as she was being marched out the door by my husband.  The ordeal managed to produce two dots the size of a pin head of thick whiteness. I dabbed the colostrum on my fingertips and let my daughter suck my finger.

No matter how many hot or cold compresses, massages and pumping there was no milk. On her first day of life all my baby had eaten was two tiny drops of colostrum. She was slowly turning yellow and placed under blue lights to treat the jaundice.

On the second day with no milk in sight, I told the nurse to give me formula. She had to check with the pediatrician. I was about to send Matt to the drug store but the nurse came in with enough formula for the rest of my stay and some for home.

“This isn’t giving you a free pass to stop pumping” she said loudly and then whispered, “I had to say that, your baby will not lack anything if you supplement or don’t breastfeed. Don’t’ tell anyone about the extra formula samples, I could lose my job.”

At that point nothing mattered. My baby was finally getting some food and within a few hours she had her first bowel movement all over Matt’s gray pants.  I went online and bought a month’s supply of formula to be delivered when we got home.

During the four days at the hospital I pumped for twenty minutes every four hours with nothing but a few drops coming out. The day we got home I developed a severe cold. I spent my first two weeks at home with Matt doing most of the baby caring because I was knocked out.

The C-Section was a piece of cake in comparison. I was walking and moving well but the constant coughing, aching body and stuffed up nose did me in. Two weeks after Hudson was born, Matt had to go back to work. The cold was getting stronger and I caved in. I took the antihistamine even though it is known to diminish milk supply.

I was still pumping every four hours and feeding my daughter mostly formula every three hours. After taking the cold medication I went down to  four times a day and was lucky if I got a total of two ounces. By the time Hudson was one month old I was down to pumping twice a day.

So when Christine and Lisa marveled at how great I looked, I told them it was due to not being sleep deprived. I didn’t dare tell anyone that I was barely breastfeeding.

Matt kept my secret but he didn’t think it was anyone’s business or that anyone had a right to give me a hard time about it. As a man, no one was going to label him a bad father. He was being hailed as a “rock star” and a “God send”. I was getting tired of the “you’re so lucky” and “que hombre tan bueno” choir of friends and family.  My husband got the accolades for doing his job and I would have been ostracized for my dwindling milk supply.

“I’m supplementing” I would say which was technically true.

One of the promises I made to myself during my pregnancy was to be gentle and kind to body, not to beat myself up if I couldn’t do things like other mothers. After two miscarriages, four failed IVF transfers, and one successful pregnancy, I had to take care of my mind and body.

When Hudson was three months old, I stopped pumping all together. I had enough of the anxiety and self-loathing that came with the hissing sound of the breast pump.

I returned to work when my daughter was five months old. All our offices have floor to ceiling glass windows next to the door so there is no privacy. A new coworker took it upon herself to find me a lactation room. I insisted I didn’t need one. New Coworker walked into the one office that did not have a glass slat and kicked the person out of her office because “Lucy needs to pump.” Displaced Coworker got upset with me because I should have told her myself instead of sending someone to do my bidding. I used every ounce of restraint to not go uptown on either of them. Nothing would have pleased me more than to send them both with a one way ticket to carajo land.

I was tempted to fake pump at work, use the time to meditate or read but the thought of dragging the pump out of its hiding place on the top shelf of my closet and lugging it around would have been too much. Everything was sorted out when I told New Coworker and Displaced Coworker that “I’m breastfeeding before and after work, I don’t need a lactation room.”

This self-preservation/being good to my mind and body journey I’m on has taught me to choose my battles and tell a white lie when it benefits my greater good. It was a good reminder of what fights are worth my time and effort. Asking for and getting two extra months of maternity leave from my job was priceless. Schooling a woman to keep my breasts out of her business was not, at least not this time.